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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

American Eventing Championships 9/13/09: Day 3.... the Injuries

I am sorry for my complete and total silence for most of the past week. I've been insanely busy (we hosted a schooling show last weekend for CDA so we had to scour the facility and it was exhausting), completely exhausted (keep crashing at 8pm on accident only to wake up at 1am mad as a hornet), and really, in all honesty, just sad. Really sad. I haven't felt much like writing. I've spent the better part of the week trying to compose myself and nursing Gogo nonstop 24/7, and I'm feeling a little bit better, but it's not easy. I've not yet hit rock bottom - that would be a permanently crippled horse - but I can see it from here!

After our amazing XC run, I was feeling on top of the world. Sure, she didn't seem to negotiate the footing all that well - which was odd to me, but stranger things had happened - but I jogged her on the way back to the barn to make sure, and she was sound. All systems go, I thought. Alex and I bathed her, and I took her out for a nice long, well-deserved graze while Alex did her stall. She seemed very pleased, and I was delighted to find that I had moved up into 6th (our leader after dressage with a 25 accumulated 60 penalties XC, at the dreaded fish of course - oh noes!). Because of the nasty, nasty scurf she accumulated on her front legs under her wraps from two weeks before that we hadn't quite been able to get rid of yet, I made the decision to liniment her but keep her open for the time being, and to come back later and wrap her when we took her back out for a walk. I am VERY glad now that I did this, as the visual of big legs was what alerted me in the first place to the problem. Had I wrapped her right away, I would have not known until the next morning that there was a problem. Alex and I wandered off, me still on cloud nine after the run, and we checked scores, looked at XC pictures, went shopping, watched some more stadium, and then headed back after awhile to wrap her and take her for a walk. We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves, and I started setting up plans for things that needed to be done for stadium the next day - I planned to braid that night, I needed to polish my boots, I needed to clean tack, unload more stuff from the trailer, get my other showclothes, etc. And then I walked into her stall and stopped. "Wow, she is really stocked up," I said. That didn't seem right.

So we took her out, and handwalked her for half an hour. She was dragging a bit, and I thought maybe she just had a hard time compensating for the footing, but that didn't make sense because the footing really was quite good. So why had she struggled with it? The little bit of fill in her front legs, which is normal for her, disappeared within a few minutes of walking, but her hind legs didn't go down. In fact, they seemed if anything bigger after half an hour. They weren't particularly hot to the touch - they were of a normal warmth at the time - but I still felt weird about it. "Maybe we should put her on the lunge and see if she just needs some more movement to get them to come down," I suggested. We grabbed my lunge line and whip, and went to the warmup behind the front stabling. She was slow to walk off, and not seriously abnormal at the trot, but then I asked her to canter. We were going left first, and she pinned her ears and reluctantly cantered off, which is totally not like her. She dragged off into canter, and wouldn't push underneath herself at all. When I brought her back down to trot, she wasn't right, especially on that right hind, but the left didn't look too good either. I gave Alex, who was standing at the rail, a rather pained please-tell-me-I'm-imagining-this look, and she joined me on the inside of the circle. We switched directions, and when I asked her to canter again, same thing - made a nasty face and reluctantly dragged off, only this time, she hopped painfully around in the canter, doing half-tempis with her back end (and spending a good part of it just cross-cantering) and propping pretty hard off the right hind. Back at the trot, she just wasn't right. Tell me this isn't happening, I thought. She's never been lame before.

"Well... let's coldhose," I suggested. Nope, that didn't help. Now, after lunging, the legs were both hot and bigger than ever. "Well... let's put her under plain wraps for an hour or two to see if that helps," although I knew it wouldn't at this point. We left her for awhile to go seek out some food for ourselves, and watched all the laughing competitors headed up to the start of the Competitor's Party and the dog show. One look at all of them, and I shook my head. I didn't want to be around anyone at the moment except for Alex. I didn't want people coming up to me and asking how my XC went. I could see myself saying, "Awesome! But I broke my horse!" We went for Thai instead, which was delicious, but I spent most of my time trying to compose myself - I cried the whole way there and back, and I never cry. Just the thought that I had broken my horse having a blast out on XC was enough to break my heart. I'm bummed that I missed such a great party, but there was no way I could have kept my composure. At 8pm when we came back after dinner for nightcheck, sure enough, the legs were still hot and even bigger than ever when we took the wraps off. Lowelle (our friend who I used to show against last year in Area 8, and who I stabled with) showed up, and she and her husband were amazing. The girl across from us had a horse going Training, and she let us borrow her enormous ice boots, the kind you dump as much ice as you possibly can into. This is why I love eventers - she and her father were leaving for the night, and they were just like yeah sure, use them, that ice is melting and won't be there tomorrow so use it up! Hang them up when you're done, see you in the morning! It was a struggle to get the boots on and filled with Gogo so uncomfortable, and it took all four of us to do it. She was a perfect angel once they were on, standing completely still for 45 minutes just munching hay while Alex and I sat outside her stall listening to the live band play. When we finally took off the boots, no change in the legs. They were still hot and now painful to the touch. Feeling horrible, I decided at this point that the only thing left to try was an overnight poultice, so we did her up with some A&Js and some paper carry-out bags we had taken from the Thai restaurant (of course I had to forget SOMETHING), and left. It was 10pm by this time. She was munching hay and looking mostly unconcerned, but she flinched and pulled her legs away when I wrapped them. I didn't sleep well.

At 4am, I left Alex still in bed, and went back to check on Gogo. This was the final moment of truth concerning whether to pull from the competition, although I already knew what the answer was going to be. There was no way she'd be okay, as I suspected bilateral bows on both hinds. Unless she had made some sort of miracle recovery in the night - highly unlikely - she was done for a good long time. I didn't even have to unwrap her. I touched her legs through the bandage, and she pulled sharply away. That was it, we were done. I gave her a 500lb dose of banamine - all I had on me at that moment - and slunk back to the hotel feeling utterly miserable. When we got up shortly thereafter, we headed back to the showgrounds and went directly to the show office, where I told them two things: "One, I need to withdraw. Two, I need a vet." A vet from Wisconsin Equine was right there, so we only had to wait a few minutes for her to get down to the barn while we washed the poultice off and coldhosed for a few minutes. She watched her jog, but hardly needed to even see it. She was so uncomfortable at that point that she was lame at the walk in both hinds, even with the banamine/poultice/coldhosing. The legs were a little bit less swollen than they had been the night before, probably thanks to the banamine, but they were still bad. She jogged out horribly, and was rated with a lameness of 3/5 in her right hind, and 2/5 in her left. Ultrasound on both legs confirmed the suspected tendon damage that I had figured it was, given the location of the swelling. (Oddly enough, the swelling in both hinds was localized to the tendons only, so as least I knew her suspensory wasn't involved... I would have killed myself if it was! If you are not completely familiar with all the major structures in the lower limb, I suggest you dissect some legs. You won't forget where ANYTHING is in the leg EVER again, and it will REALLY be helpful in determining injury location! Not for the squeamish though... as you can see by the photo though, I was having a GREAT time with my Crocodile Dundee knife! I even still have a navicular bone from that dissection that I carry around as a talisman.) Anyway, yes, ultrasound showed some damage but it wasn't anything like I expected, given her level of discomfort. Her LH, the one she was less lame on, had an enlarged SDFT (or superficial digital flexor tendon), which was indicative of a minor strain but nothing more. There was no real fiber disruption anywhere, which was great. Her RH, on the other hand, did have some minor disruption of the fibers in the DDFT (deep digital flexor tendon, which runs behind the SFDT) and some distention of the check ligament as well, which articulates with the DDFT. The good news was that most of the swelling was just superficial edema, which is pretty painful but not damaging unless you don't do anything about it.

Maybe that can give you a better picture! Here is the ultrasound, although don't expect me to be able to tell you too much about it. I'm balls at being able to tell anything about ultrasound pictures, although the one thing that is obvious to me here is that the SSDF is indeed larger on the left than on the right.

The one picture is just of her RH; the smaller circle shows where the damages are. The other picture is a comparison of the two. The vet said don't mind the crazy squiggles in the smaller circle for the damages on the RH... apparently her machine was being sticky!

The preliminary prognosis for these injuries? Good. The vet said at this point there is no reason to think she shouldn't make a full recovery, and go on to compete at whatever level she is destined to reach. We caught it pretty immediately, and were very aggressive with cold therapy and anti-inflammatories immediately after the diagnosis was made (and everything I did the day before helped a bit too, I hope). The problem at this point? How I was going to get her safely home. The last thing I wanted to do with fresh tendon injuries was to bounce my horse around on a trailer for two days. But we had to do what we had to do, so once we were packed, we coldhosed her again, wrapped her hinds and put shipping boots over them (she pulls down plain wraps in the trailer, and we didn't want that either!!), gave her 2 grams of bute, and loaded up, making our very, very, very slow and careful way home. I stopped to check on her several times, unloading just once to walk her for 5 minutes and offer her a drink (which she refused). I unwrapped her to look at the legs, and while they looked better, they were still very, very ugly. I snapped a few pictures at that time, and will show you them as soon as I upload everything alongside pictures I took two days ago, to show the difference already. It was a miserable, long day of driving - every little bump or curve and I cringed. At some point during the day, I got a text from a reader who is my friend on Facebook, who has a place north of Chicago, offering me somewhere to keep Gogo for a little bit if the drive back wasn't an option. I love my readers. Really.

We finally pulled in to Alex's house at around 11:30pm, and we promptly coldhosed again, rewrapped her, gave her more bute, and tucked her in tight with Polly's blankie on:

I managed to secure one extra day off from work to give her a day to stabilize, and Alex and I enjoyed one last day together, although most of it was spent cleaning stalls, caring for Gogo, and worrying about her. Then at 8am on Tuesday, we loaded back up after more coldhosing and with more bute on board, and headed out for the long, miserable drive back to CT. It wouldn't have been miserable except for the fact that a) my horse was broken, b) I had no more company in the car, and c) I was leaving Alex behind. We finally pulled in at around 8pm, promptly coldhosed some more, loaded up with even more bute, rewrapped, and crashed, both of us. I had to be up working the very next morning, which is why I've been struggling all week. I've been utterly exhausted. I just never caught up with my sleep after that first 4am morning on Sunday.

The program for the past week has been this:

Sunday 9/13-Tuesday 9/15: 2grams bute 2x daily, 5 minutes of handwalking daily (split into two handwalks of 2.5 minutes each + 10 minutes handgrazing each), coldhosing 3x daily for 20 minutes each, ice boots 1-2x daily for 30 minutes each, Surpass rubbed into each leg 2x daily, keeping legs wrapped whenever they aren't being coldhosed or iced.

Wednesday 9/16-Sunday 9/20: 1gram bute 2x daily, 5 minutes of handwalking daily (split into two handwalks of 2.5 minutes each + 10 minutes handgrazing each), coldhosing 3x daily for 20 minutes each, ice boots 1-2x daily for 30 minutes each, Surpass rubbed into each leg 2x daily, keeping legs wrapped whenever they aren't being coldhosed or iced.

And then a new schedule for this week:

Monday 9/21-Sunday 9/27: 10 minutes of handwalking daily (split into two handwalks of 5 minutes each + 10 minutes handgrazing each), coldhosing 2x daily for 20 minutes each, ice boots 1x daily for 30 minutes, Surpass rubbed into each leg 2x daily, keeping legs wrapped whenever they aren't being coldhosed or iced.

So far, she's being a very good patient, except for when she's not. I put a chain on her to handwalk, just because she's very fit and very put out by the fact that she's not going outside, and she didn't like that AT ALL. I never use a chain on her because I don't need it, but I figured I better to be safe. She showed her immediate displeasure by refusing to graze unless I took it off. She also, when I led her back to her stall the second night back after coldhosing, tried to rip her head out of her halter, which she knows not to do. She got a pop from the chain for it, and she shook her head, sat back hard on those tender tendons, and LAUNCHED into a capriole, landing IN her water buckets with both front legs. We both got completely soaked, she bend a bucket all out of place, and I freaked about her legs. Thankfully, she seemed no worse for the wear afterwards. Mares.

She seems to have resigned herself to this boring new routine though. She doesn't wear the chain anymore, and isn't walking around in her stall in an annoyed way anymore. I think she knows she's hurt, as she's being very careful with herself. She was very unhappy about not going outside at first, but she seems okay after she realized she really just isn't going to get to go outside when everybody else does. We also moved her from her regular stall (inside with no windows) to the empty stall on the end (with TWO windows!), and she is much happier there. She had her feed reduced to 1.5lbs Gro N' Win split into 3 feedings, with one handful of barley at each feeding still. She gets about as much mediocre hay as she can eat, as it has hardly any nutritional value in it (what IS it with our crappy hay this year?) and it keeps her busy and not fat. We removed the DMG, and once her electrolytes are gone she'll be done with those too for now. I also added Smartflex Repair to her PM grain, in pelleted form. I have a feeling it's probably not going to do anything - tendons are very avascular structures, how on earth is that stuff going to get there? - but at this point, it can't hurt. After a week of meticulous care, her legs look a lot better already. I will put up some pictures as soon as I upload.

I feel horrible. HORRIBLE. If only I had known on XC. If only I could have pulled up. If only, if only, if only. It's all what if's and why's at this point though. Why did this happen to her? You guys all know how much I do slow conditioning work on pavement. Her tendons should be made of iron at this point. I do all that specifically to prevent problems like this. And you guys all know how incredibly fit she was. Tendons fail when muscles are too fatigued to take the brunt of the work, but this wasn't a care of that either, because of the slide. But how did a little slide create such damage? Was she fatigued from the long journey? Maybe. Maybe something was already wrong and she wasn't lame and therefore didn't clue me in until it was too late? I doubt it, but you never know. She slipped at Huntington too, why? It was a different slip, but was it a similar thing? Did she do something then? Is that indicative of a bigger problem?

And the big one: would shoes have stopped this slide? In a word, no. Has this been a slip backwards when she pushed off for a jump, I'd say maybe she could have benefitted from additional traction of some sort. But what happened is that when I gave a half-halt on the wet grass with the concrete dirt underneath it, she had no purchase when she brought her hind end underneath her, and slid with both legs underneath herself. She caught herself quickly and went on just fine, but a plain shoe would have been just as slippery, if not more so. 1100lbs of sliding horseflesh is not going to stop for a piece of metal, just considering the sheer biomechanics of it. And as for studs, they would have either stopped the slide or they would have severely exacerbated the injury. She would have either come out of it fine or with serious damage to perhaps not just her hinds but to all four legs, or to her hocks, back, or worse damage to her tendons from the sheer torque of her feet snagging in the ground while her momentum carried her body onwards.... or she would have fallen. A studded horse went down on Prelim just the day before. A studded horse went down at Old Chatham too in my division. A shod Metro went down with me while schooling XC once, just a freak thing, and no sooner had I gotten back up than another shod horse in our schooling group went down too. They are big animals... who are we to think that we can do it better than nature? That is how horses and riders get killed. Studs are good for providing a little extra grip when a horse is pushing forward. Studs are VERY, VERY dangerous for anything other than that. To me, their negatives far, far, far outweigh their positives. I am not, nor will I ever, consider nailing metal to my horse's feet. They are far too beautiful to ruin. I WILL, however, be looking into possiblities for alternative footwear. The problem is, what IS out there? Boots fall off, don't fit well, rub, aren't designed for jumping, and are bulky. Glue-on boots are a PITA and aren't dressage legal anyway (WHY you would need boots in dressage though is beyond me). Glue-on shoes are a possibility, as they are removeable and reuseable. They are still a PITA to apply though, and aren't failproof. And would they REALLY change anything in the event of a slide like this unless I added studs? I can't imagine running a full XC course with studs. I think I'd give myself an ulcer freaking out about them the entire run. I feel much, much, MUCH safer with a barefoot horse.

The problem with the equine limb is that it is designed for a certain amount of slip to prevent damage (hence the dangers of studs). So a little slippage is actually desired, versus a limb that just glues to the ground when it touches down. It's just when the slip goes too far, or a rider is involved, one who is idiot enough to not know there is a problem and to keep pounding on their poor, poor mare over the rest of a grueling XC course. I really feel horrible. I don't think I'll ever not feel horrible for it. The best I can do at this point is do everything in my power to help her recover from this as best I can. If I am lucky and diligent, someday she will forgive me for my trespasses on her life and safety and comfort.

Poor, poor Gogomare.


Funder said...

Still thinking about you both! It sounds like you did everything right, had a freaky accident, and you're doing everything right to get her sound again. I'm so sorry this happened to you :(

Beth said...

It was a freak accident. And you didnt pound her unnecessarily forward, you asked and she gave. She just has a huge heart!

Which vet did you see from Wisconsin Equine? Was it Dr. Bolam? She is fabulous! (and I know she was at the AEC's). All the vets from there are GREAT...thats the clinic I use.

I am glad that you guys are on the road to recovery!!!

Jennifer said...

Still wishing for the best for GoGo in her recovery, and your sanity.

Jennifer, Ransom, and Romeo

Lexie said...

Don't be so hard on yourself! You are the best person to judge your horse. You know her better than anyone. I don't think you could have done anything differently with what you were given. Sending jingles for both of you to recover quickly, her legs, your heart.

Anonymous said...

I know how you feel - really, I do. I felt the same way with my gelding's suspensory injury. I know in my heart that I should have known something wasn't right, but I didn't. It's been two months, and, while I'll always blame myself, I'm finally forgiving myself and accepting that all I can do now is help him heal. Hang in there and don't be so hard on yourself. Horses are so fragile and so hard to read sometimes. Gogo is lucky she has an owner who will rehab this injury instead of ditching her.

Ambivalent Academic said...

Hey Andrea - I realize that this probably won't help, but I feel compelled to say it anyway. It's natural to feel badly about this - I totally understand why you do, so that's not a judgment on you.

However, please don't forget that Gogo has an incredibly conscientious owner who is clearly doing everything in her power to bring her back to 100% comfort. THAT is what matters to Gogo. Feeling guilty and beating yourself up won't fix anything, and Gogo is not going to blame you for what happened. I'm not sure that horses really understand time in the way that we do - I'm pretty sure that she's not dwelling on whatever happened on course. I'm pretty sure she does appreciate everything that you're doing for her now. You can't change what happened no matter how self-flagellating you are about it. What you can do, is put all that energy into giving her the best care possible - which you *are* doing. Look forward, stay positive, don't hurt your self over this. You're a wonderful horse mommy - sometimes freak things happen and there's no way you could have predicted it. Hugs to you and Gogo both.

Albigears said...

I was wondering the same thing- how she could possibly injure herself like this considering how conditioned she was. And in both legs. Heck, look at those reiners that slide for miles!

Maybe it was the slip, maybe not, but you have to give yourself some credit here. You'll never know for sure how it happened. You together, as a team, went forward. She chose to keep going too, you know. And now she's getting the best of care.

As far as earning her trust back... I don't think you ever lost it. Maybe if you had asked her to do the showjumping round. All she knows is that her legs got injured and now her mom is taking care of her.

Anonymous said...

I once jumped my horse into quicksand (didn't realize it wasn't solid), where he was stranded for hours and almost got hauled out by the Fire Dept. I thought, since I asked him to jump, that he'd never trust me again. After that, he was the same brave, save-my-ass honest jumper as always. He did take an extra hard look at water jumps after that, but he certainly didn't lose his faith in me. Your relationship/bond with Gogo is what she trusts--the ups and downs you go through don't matter to her--horses see the big picture.


Nicku said...

It's hard not to beat yourself up over this but really, based on the description you gave, you didnt do anything wrong and it sounds like once you realized there was a problem, you did everything right.
Stuff happens even when you're ridiculously careful and you just have to be REALLY thankful when it is treatable stuff. You have plenty of time to recoup, rehab and recondition to kick some more butt in 2010!

Dressager said...

You did nothing wrong. It was a freak accident, I know I would not have been able to notice but the few quirks that you did notice (I'm noob enough to not notice anything until my horse is obviously limping or her leg is hot as hell... I'll get there though, this recent post has taught me a lot about the ligaments - great picture too btw!) and dwelling on the past - which you cannot do anything about - instead of celebrating that she is expected to make a full recovery and that she is taking everything in stride and that you are handling her injuries spot-on and that you didn't pull a spoiled-rotten-Veruca-Salt-equestrian and just dump the poor, very willing, and very trying girl at an auction. I know too many girls who would've have been mad at the poor horse for all of this and thrown a temper-tantrum because they couldn't get a pretty ribbon, sadly.

What you are doing for your beloved mare is textbook perfect. I would do the same thing if (God forbid) Greta had a similar injury. You are doing exactly what every responsible owner should do. Accidents happen, you didn't push her intentionally: it just happened.

You both still rock the boat!!!